“Implicit Racial Bias” and Preference for Republican Candidates over Obama

At UW Today, a University of Washington publication, Molly McElroy recently published a summary of research by Anthony Greenwald at the University of Washington with some other psychological researchers. The title of her article is “Unconscious racial attitudes playing large role in 2012 presidential vote.”

McElroy summarizes their current and earlier research:

In a study done just prior to the 2008 presidential election, Greenwald and colleagues found that race attitudes played a role in predicting votes for the Republican candidate John McCain.

They used the implicit association test (IAT), which we have discussed a bit previously here. One version of the IAT has respondents match white and black faces to desirable and undesirable words, and the speed/difficulty in matching in used to judge “implicit” or “unconscious racial bias.”

Most recently, during the 2012 Republican primaries they collected online data from nearly 15,000 voters, and have found that the intensity of white preference on a version of the IAT (and other measures) links to conservative political preferences:

Greenwald asked survey-takers about their political beliefs, how “warmly” they felt toward black and white people, and which presidential contender they preferred. Because the survey was conducted in the first four months of 2012, it included the five main Republican hopefuls – Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum – as well as Obama.

. . . . Greenwald found that favoritism for Republican candidates was predicted by respondents’ racial attitudes, both their self-reported views and their implicit biases measured by the IAT. Greenwald emphasized that the study’s finding that some candidates are more attractive to voters with pro-white racial attitudes does not mean that those candidates are racist.

An odd comment that last one. Such preferences for whiteness over blackness are of course “racist” if one means by that term thinking and operating out of a conventional white-racist framing of U.S. society. And the Republican candidates themselves certainly did a good bit of that white racial framing over the primaries.

The journalist McElroy, and apparently some of the researchers, seem a bit surprised that President Barack Obama’s election did not reduce this white racial preference for whites. But such negative results will not be surprising to the social scientists who write for this blog, or for most of our social science and other readers, as much social science and other data beyond the IAT research articles would lead one to expect such findings.

Greenwald is cited as explaining the continuing “racial bias” among white voters in regard to President Obama with this interesting explanation:

[Greenwald] suspects that Obama’s power as president in 2012, compared with his lesser status as candidate in 2008, may have “brought out race-based antagonism that had less reason to be activated in 2008.”

That is, whites with strong racial biases directed at black Americans may be even more disturbed now that a black man has great power as president. I suspect he is right about that, as our extensive data on the racist attacks on Obama inside and outside the Republican Party in our book, Yes We Can?: White Racial Framing and the 2008 Presidential Election demonstrate. (I also develop a broad argument about a centuries-old link of U.S. politics to white racism in its many forms in a new Routledge (2012) book, White Party, White Government: Race Class and U.S. Politics.)

One major limitation of the typical psychological interpretations of the IAT research findings is that these otherwise creative social psychologists are handicapped by old and very limiting concepts like “bias” and “racial prejudice.” Such white racial views and attitudes are only a small part of the broad white racial frame that has been drilled into almost all American heads, of whites and others, now for centuries. That dominant white racial frame includes these racial biases but also racial stereotyping, racial narratives, racialized emotions, racial images, and inclinations to discriminate. The problem is the hoary and dominant white framing, the dominant white worldview, not just some racial bias.

In addition, IAT results showing that even relatively “egalitarian” whites still exhibit “unconscious racial bias” is much better explained as these whites revealing significant elements of a deep white racial framing—-a framing that allows more liberal whites to truly believe they are colorblind even as they still see the world very much through elements of a white racial framing of society generated in their minds from cradle to grave. Without major deframing, reframing, and counter-framing — especially in a true liberty and justice direction — the old white racial frame still dominates the landscape of white minds and the minds of many others.

Race Still Matters in America — Part Two

Although many whites (and some blacks) deny it, skin color still has a pervasive influence on peoples’ lives in America. Even the place where you live is related to your color. While new research indicates this country is becoming less residentially segregated, the vast majority of us still live in homogeneous areas with a smattering of people from other racial groups. This was a vestige of official U.S. Government policy that proscribed integrating established white neighborhoods. Today the Department of Housing and Urban Development annually investigates around 10,000 fair housing discrimination complaints—a hopeless situation given their limited resources and the estimated 2 million annual racial housing discrimination cases in the United States according to the United Nations.

One of the most deplorable examples of racism can be found in our judicial system that incarcerates over 2 million people, more than any nation in the world. About half of those locked up are people of color. The American Civil Liberties Union estimates that there are more blacks in prison, jail, on probation or parole than there were enslaved before the Civil War. Nearly 1 in 9 young black Americans is incarcerated, more than any other group, and they receive harsher sentences than whites for similar offenses. Thanks to modern technology, we are getting candid glimpses of the verbal and physical abuse people of color must endure at the hands of some law enforcement personnel, and the Innocence Project has demonstrated racial inequities in capital sentencing.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Despite attempts to improve the health status of blacks and Latinos, they still lag far behind whites. Blacks live five years less, and have more than twice the number of infant deaths than whites, and, along with Latinos, they die more often from infectious and communicable diseases, heart attacks, diabetes and other problems that could be attenuated by preventive behavior and adequate health care. Once again, the data demonstrate that these disparities are not the result of genetic differences. The landmark study “Unequal Treatment” conducted for Congress by the Institute of Medicine concluded

Racial and ethnic minorities tend to receive a lower quality of healthcare than non-minorities, even when access-related factors, such as patients’ insurance status and income, are controlled.

Republicans, who are overwhelmingly white, are not oblivious to these disparities. They prefer to attribute differences in opportunities and the way people are treated to individual aberrations—solely the fault of recalcitrant blacks and Latinos who violate norms of probity and civility. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the darling of Republican conservatives and an aspiring Vice Presidential candidate, reinforced this in a speech last August at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library:

The free enterprise system does not create poverty. The free enterprise system creates prosperity, not denies it. . . ; [And] . . . we must understand that poverty does not create our social problems, our social problems create our poverty.

This popular myth has been woven into the fabric of our society through a public school system that perpetuates segregation, and dashes the hopes of millions of children of color and poor whites. Over 7,000 students drop out of school each day in the United States. Because of the demise of busing and the court’s acquiescence to the principle of unitary status, there has been a reemergence of neighborhood schools. Since most neighborhoods in this country are de facto segregated, schools are now more monochromatic than before the Brown decision in 1954.

Republican leaders’ strategy of unifying white middle and working classes against the supposed excesses of minorities is inherently perverse, blaming the victims of racism when they themselves are struggling to keep their head above water. It may help some people retain a shred of dignity believing that despite their misfortune, they are still superior to others below them on the social ladder—even if the rungs separating them are moving closer as the wealth of the nation becomes centered in the hands of the few.

Demographic changes in our society will make the Republican Party irrelevant if it does not change its rhetoric and become more inclusive. In a few decades minorities will be the majority. Focusing on issues of values and morals may temporarily capture the public’s attention, but they will find that blaming the victims of institutional deficiencies and greed is hardly a formula for success.

H. Roy Kaplan was the Executive Director of The National Conference of Christians and Jews for the Tampa Bay area. His most recent book is The Myth of Post-Racial America.

Race Still Matters (But Republicans Won’t Admit It) — Part One

Among all the Republican candidates’ rhetoric about the necessity to create jobs and get people back to work, there is never a reference to racism and its impact on our society. It’s a topic they studiously avoid, but it is embedded within their ideology—an ideology that continues to have pernicious effects on our country. As a sociologist and community organizer (also disparaged occupations among some segments of society), I would like to share a few facts that I hope will cause them to reconsider their aversion to the subject and become engaged in a discussion about fairness and the quality of life here.

Although much contemporary Republican rhetoric is ostensibly designed to encompass everyone, their speeches are sprinkled with euphemisms and code words that reinforce stereotypes about people of color and the poor, e.g. dwelling on concepts of welfare, food stamps, immigrants, and miscreants who are supposedly sapping the strength of this nation. In actuality, the Republicans’ penchant for demonizing nonwhites and the poor is a calculated attempt to unify whites in a struggle to retain the power and privilege they have monopolized since the country was founded.

One of their most egregious errors is their failure to acknowledge the common origins and destiny of the people of this nation. Though they came from different places and for various reasons—some willingly, and others under duress, scientists have established through DNA research that we are all descendants from ancestors who lived in Africa about 60,000 years ago. There is only one human race, Homo sapiens, and there are no significant differences in intelligence or athletic ability based on the color of one’s skin or the shape of their ears, nose, lips or texture of their hair.

Now this is a difficult pill for some Republicans to swallow since the essence of their platform resides in assumptions about the innate moral inferiority of some people who are demonized as slackers, cheats, and ne’er-do-wells. It is much easier to blame the victims of racism and dysfunctional, unresponsive institutions than to tackle the systemic causes of the problems that plague our society. If we only expel illegal immigrants, lock up all the criminals, throw the welfare cheats off the public dole, curtail unions that shield incompetents and slackers, then we could save our society. And the plans they put forward at the local, state and national level are designed to do just that without regard to a few basic facts.

Republicans’ assume that the United States is a meritocracy with level playing fields that afford everyone equal opportunities to succeed, but research indicates that there are significant differences in the way people of color are treated, especially blacks and Latinos. Today, there are more Hispanic children living in poverty than white, over 6 million, even though Latinos account for less than a quarter of the nation’s children.

High school graduation rates (the percent of students who graduate with their peers in four years) reveal that less than half of black and Latino males complete high school compared to three-quarters of white males. Even more shocking are the incredibly low graduation rates of black and Latino males in some cities, hovering under 30 percent in Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland, New York City and St. Petersburg. Places where the white male rates are only around 50 percent—also deplorable.

The level of education has a direct impact on one’s earnings: high school graduates bring in $8,000 more a year than dropouts, and college grads $27,000 more. The types of jobs workers obtain are also linked to their education, with the more interesting and autonomous jobs going to the higher educated.

I’ve heard the retort that things have changed. We’ve got a black man in the Office of the President. We’ve got 640 black mayors across the country—a far cry from the ‘60s when there were none. But the political power of cities has vastly declined along with their wealth. Most are on life-support.

“Well,” they say, “there are 43 black Congressmen and 25 Latinos.” Yet, political power is still wielded by whites in this nation. There are no black Senators and only two Latinos. There have only been four black Senators since reconstruction. There is only one black governor (Patrick of Massachusetts) and two Hispanics (Sandoval of Nevada and Martinez of New Mexico). Since blacks and Latinos account for over a quarter of the population, they are underrepresented in both Houses of Congress and governorships. They have not fared any better on the Supreme Court, with just 2 blacks and one Latina in its 220 year history.

Looking at the economy, there are only four blacks and five Latinos heading Fortune 500 corporations. For decades the unemployment rate of blacks and Latinos has been double that of whites, and large numbers of them are stuck in low-paying dead-end jobs. This is partly a function of their low education attainment, but research shows that blacks and Latinos earn less than whites with the same educational attainment in the same jobs. Other studies show that people with ethnic names are less successful in job hunting—less likely to be asked for interviews than whites with Anglo names.

While some blacks and Latinos have significantly improved their social and economic status over the last five decades, it is apparent from these facts that political and corporate power still resides in the hands of relatively few white men who are reluctant to share it. Our next installment will focus on other types of racial disparities and explore the Republicans’ ideological support for blaming the victims of inequality and perpetuating the myth of meritocracy.

H. Roy Kaplan was the Executive Director of The National Conference of Christians and Jews for the Tampa Bay area. His most recent book is The Myth of Post-Racial America.

Ghost of Christmas Past: Racism & Divisiveness in the Republican Party

Have you ever been somewhere or doing something and thought to yourself, “This is strangely familiar. I have been here before, right?” The American comic Steven Wright once said, “Right now I’m having amnesia and déjà vu at the same time.” At this moment in time, this quote holds true for the current process of nominating the Republican Great White Hope nominee. Even though I was not around during the 1940s and 1950s (thank God, I do not know if I would have been tough enough), I am feeling as if our country has been here before, politically and socially.

For me, I have seen this before with the political career of provocative Strom Thurmond. In the beginning, he was known as a progressive legislator with the Democratic Party. Although a racist Dixiecrat, he was once responsible for arresting members of a lynch mob that killed a Black man named Willie Earle in South Carolina. For his pursuit in this matter, he was congratulated by the NAACP.

Later as a presidential candidate in 1948, he began to change his proverbial tune. In order to win, he realized that the nation was negatively reacting to the actions of President Harry Truman and the general Civil Rights movement that was occurring in the U.S. He loudly played to the fear and hatred being felt by Whites. As the presidential candidate, Strom Thurmond won an astounding 39 electoral votes. The formula worked and he continued on this road to later be elected in 1954 to the U.S. Senate. Later in 1964, he even switched parties.

Today, the spirit of Strom Thurmond is present within the current Republican Party nomination process. The likes of Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul have all had their turn publicly battering people of color and the poor to the jeers of misguided conservatives who have felt that their country has been stripped from their White hands by a Black man.

Instead of explicitly spouting racist comments, their approach has been quite clever. Throughout the debates we have seen the emergence of exploiting the same “state rights” (10th Amendment) argument that was used to argue against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Simply, the candidates are utilizing the amendment that reserves rights to the state and its people and not to the federal government in order to rid the federal muscle protecting issues such as health care, abortion, immigration, new ID laws which make it difficult for marginalized populations to vote, and civil rights. This is a coded but clearly understood message that makes a call for times of yesterday.
A more explicit example of social ignorance that has been front and center during this election period can be found with Ron Paul and the evidence that has recently been discovered by the press. Ron Paul’s previous political newsletters have been shown to contain numerous statements marked by bigotry and racism. Even though Ron Paul and his supporters have claimed that many of the articles were written by others using his name, I still find him guilty of supporting the weight of what was said. He was a part of newsletters that called Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, a “Radical black Anglican.” In addition, Ron Paul’s newsletter has been connected with:

• Arguing that whites should arm themselves due to the oncoming race war
• Agreeing with the racist findings and comments of eugenics advocate Jared Taylor
• Asserting young Black males, unlike their counterparts, should be tried in adult courts due to the fact that they are “big, strong, tough, scary, and culpable as any adult, and should be treated as such [http://www.tnr.com/sites/default/files/Sep92PolRepRacist_0.PDF]
• Defending the previous owner of the Cincinnati Reds, Marge Schott, when she referred to her players as “million dollar niggers.”

This is not to mention the fact that the newsletter agreed as well to her statements that held Hitler in high regard.

Moreover, during the greatly expected Republican debate in South Carolina, which happened to fall on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, racism and social ignorance were on full display. The Black moderator, and socially conservative Juan Williams, asked Newt Gingrich if he felt that his previously public comments relating to the need of Black Americans to demand jobs and not food stamps was insulting to the poor and Blacks. As Newt undauntedly said, “No, I don’t see that,” the crowd of mostly White participants erupted into cheers. As Juan attempted to push the matter further, the crowd booed and actually gave Newt a standing ovation.

What was equally upsetting was the fact that the other nominees said nothing. They stolidly stood silent as the social assault on the poor and people of color went down. They were all complicit in their silence to rhetoric that echoed white supremacy. Due to the lack of a critical examination by Matt Lauer or his other blockheaded news associates, I find them complicit as well. In my mind, they were all guilty of the message that was portrayed to the world. David Axelrod was correct when he said, “campaigns are like MRIs for the soul…” We as a country are truly diseased.

The GOP, the New York Times and the ‘Bog’ of Racism

As the Republican presidential context heats up, so does the racist rhetoric. And, in some quarters, white voters are giving that kind of rhetoric a standing ovation. Yet, The New York Times, the nation’s leading news organization, seems unwilling to clearly and unequivocally call out the obvious racism of the GOP.

(Image from CNN)

In an excellent piece at FAIR, Peter Hart writes that:

“When a Republican presidential candidate goes around talking about Barack Obama as the ‘food stamp president,’ eventually reporters are going to have to write about racism.”

That is, unless they’re writing for the NYTimes.  Last Thursday, (1/18/12), Jim Rutenberg had this to say about Newt Gingrich’s food stamp rhetoric:

Mr. Gingrich was clearly making the case that he is the candidate most able to take the fight to Mr. Obama in the fall, but he was also laying bare risks for his party when it comes to invoking arguments perceived to carry racial themes or other value-laden attack lines.

Hart’s take on the reporting here is, “this is the kind of language one expects to encounter when reporters have to figure out ways to talk about racism without calling it racism.” 

It’s also an excellent example of the kind of white racial framing that the NYTimes routinely offers readers. And, of course, this is no coincidence. The NYTimes is a HWO (historically white organization) serving a predominantly white readership. (If you have any doubts about how how white the NYTimes is, watch the documentary “Page One” for a glimpse of who’s running the shop there.) So, it makes sense that their reporting is from a white perspective for a white audience.

The NYTimes does not seem to have trouble acknowledging, at least on the opinion pages, the whiteness of the GOP candidates, most notably the unmitigated whiteness of Mitt Romney. (Yet, even in that article, the title is “What’s Race Got to Do With It?”  eliding a bit the thoroughly racial content of the article.)

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day (1/16/12), the NYTimes John Harwood reported on why several Republicans didn’t pursue the presidential nomination:

Political heavyweights who declined to enter the 2012 race all had uniquely personal reasons. Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana faced family resistance; former Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi feared being bogged down in the politics of race; Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey doubted his readiness for the Oval Office.

Again, Harwood is side-stepping the obvious issue of racism here with the euphemism of “the politics of race.”  Those with a political memory longer than a minute will recall that just last year (2010), Barbour was extolling the supposed virtues of the white supremacist Citizens Council groups in Mississippi. In Barbour’s re-imagined civil rights history, these were anti-Klan activists, when of course, these were simply the suit-and-tie version of the KKK, founded to oppose school integration as critics pointed out at the time. Yet, the NYTimes obfuscates this with their description of the “bog” of racial politics.

Fortunately, there are excellent writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic) who do not share the timidity of the NYTimes when it comes to the racism of the GOP. Coates writes:

“When a professor of history calls Barack Obama a ‘Food Stamp President,’ it isn’t a mistake to be remedied through clarification; it is a statement of aggression. And when a crowd of his admirers cheer him on, they are neither deluded, nor in need of forgiveness, nor absolution, nor acting against their interest. Racism is their interest. They are not your misguided friends. They are your fully intelligent adversaries, sporting the broad range of virtue and vice we see in humankind.”

Coates is right, of course. Those who stood and cheered Gingrich in South Carolina earlier this week were standing and cheering their own interests.  Gingrich’s performance in South Carolina is part of what prompted Chauncey DeVega to call this “air raid siren” racism (instead of “dog whistle” racism).

Rather than offer a scathing critique and analysis of this, the NYTimes gives the GOP and racism a pass.


Governor Perry’s N-Word Problem

Who do I have a grudge with this week? Of course, it is with the U.S. government. In particular, my emotions are directed at the United States Board on Geographic Names. In 1967, they were charged with changing the word “nigger” at 143 locations to “Negro.” How dare they have the chutzpah to forget about “Niggerhead” in Paint Creek, Texas? This is the same property owned by the family of poor debating tongue-tied Ricky Perry, Republican presidential nominee and current governor of Texas.

It seems the government run geographical board did not forget about “Negro Bill Canyon” (formerly known as Nigger Bill Canyon, Utah), or “Negrohead Mountain,” which is a peak above Santa Monica, California (renamed in February 2010 to Ballard Mountain). Poorly handled media demonization forced Perry to respond by saying,

When my Dad joined the lease in 1983, he took the first opportunity he had to paint over the offensive word on the rock during the 4th of July holiday…It is my understanding that the rock was eventually turned over to further obscure what was originally written on it.

See, he had to do the job of the federal government on his own. Well, yes it took him three years after the property was bought to paint over it. But still he rolled up his Texas sleeves and did the job. And yes I am aware of the fact that some have reported to the media that they have been guests of the family while hunting on the property and seen the rock that depicts the name at the entrance to the property displaying the naughty name. But come on, who can blame the guy. He has been very busy. When defending his morality, he stated,

I judge folks by their character and ethics. As Governor, I represent a big, fast-growing and diverse state. My appointments and actions represent the whole state, including our growing diversity, such as appointment of the first African-American Supreme Court Justice — whom I later appointed to Chief Justice — and the first Latina Secretary of State.

One cannot forget the hard work he has displayed while helping his home state to increase the number of Blacks executed on death row either. That is one for the record books of equality, huh? Again, how can we solely blame Rick? He is a slave to the chains of the white racial frame. Perry’s allowances for the rock to exist in the first place are driven by the rationale that drove the operation of U.S. slavery. Moreover, Leslie Picca and Joe Feagin in Two Faced Racism (2007) discuss how Whites have the ability to publicly object or not participate in expressions of racism or bigotry, but in private amongst other whites they have the ability to be overtly racists.

Well those are the pains of the white racial frame. Perry is simply a victim of the “oppression.” So shouldn’t we give him a break? But then again, one has to question the good sense of anyone attempting to run for president while shooting (no pun intended) to gain favor from a select group of special people who cheer during a republican debate regarding the execution of hundreds of inmates, allowing the uninsured to die, and turning back to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy. Oppression of the marginalized is indeed an immortal ideological symbiote that has latched upon the psyche of world consciousness. So do me a favor and leave Perry alone!:)

Majority of African Americans Reject Modern Republican Party: Some History

In my last post titled “Herman Cain: African American Voters Too “Brainwashed,” I stated that presidential candidate Herman Cain claims that African Americans are not open to Republican ideals and believes his message is marginalized by the liberal media. I went on to state reasons why some African Americans join the Republican Party. This post extends the Cain post and offers some historical explanations as to why African Americans in general do not vote Republican.

During the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century, it must be noted that both the Republican and Democratic parties viewed African Americans as racially inferior to whites. But the Democratic Party, the most powerful of the two parties, was the party of southern planters that opposed black participation in politics and were determined that slavery had not ended. On the other hand, the Republican Party was the first of the two parties that welcomed African American participation and contributed to the establishment of the Freedman’s Bureau. As a result, the majority of the African American community voted for the Republican Party until the Great Depression.

In 1866, the 39th Republican Congress passed the 14th Amendment, a major civil rights bill, granting former slaves U.S. citizenship. When this legislation was passed, former slave states opposed the idea of living among and associating with former slaves and white Democratic planters, the ruling elite, did everything possible to stifle black progress. In 1867, Thaddeus Stevens (R-PA), a powerful leader in the Republican Party, presented the Reconstruction Act that would grant black males the right to vote. Southern planters moved swiftly to prevent this voting right, but the Act was passed.

In 1870, under the Reconstruction Act, African Americans began participating in the Republican Party, and were concerned about the government’s division of land and the restoration of the property taken from them when the Confederate soldiers returned. Their concerns were not considered, and state amendments were passed in favor of the planters. Here lies part of the black economic problem. When blacks were freed from slavery and the government gave them property, the land was taken from them and returned to the southern rebels when their states rejoined the union. The taking of the land or what blacks call their “forty acres and a mule” destroyed blacks’ ability to self-determine their future and to provide for their posterity. There was no public effort to educate them and laws were passed to keep them as close to a slave status as possible.

The Reconstruction Era (1863-1877) lasted about 14 years and turned African Americans into a potent political force. During this period, African Americans enjoyed political, economic, and cultural progress, even though the black codes—whites treating free blacks as slaves—instituted by the legislature stalled the progress they made. Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), an orator and author, received substantial financial support from the white power elite because he insisted that blacks should prepare themselves for citizenship through self-help programs and industrial education. Washington, like other black conservatives of his day and modern day black conservatives, was an accommodationist. He believed African Americans were creating hostility among whites for demanding their rights, ignoring America’s major role in subjecting blacks to slavery and putting legal barriers in their way after emancipation.

Herman Cain is a modern-day Washington. Cain does not seem to understand that as long as black accommodationists, such as himself, pander to the white racial frame, absolve white racism, and believe that self-help programs will open the door to economic prosperity for the masses of African Americans, he is living an illusion. Cain has extrapolated his own personal success to all African Americans, leaving room for ongoing racist practices against African Americans and other Americans of color.

In 1876, Republican president-elect Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881), who initially supported black rights, struck a deal over a disputed close election between himself and his Democratic opponent, Samuel Tilden, in support of the interests of the South, thus ending the Reconstruction Era. Consequently, the Republicans formed a coalition of radical segregationists to resist all Reconstruction reforms. With the help of a conservative U.S. Supreme Court, the political safeguards African Americans enjoyed were removed after Hayes took office. This opened the door for political oppression through segregationist Jim Crow laws that lasted for almost a century. Since African Americans who traditionally voted for the Republican Party from 1867 to 1932 saw a rolling back of their civil rights and no economic progress, they abandoned the Republican Party, switched their loyalty to the Democratic Party, and voted for Franklin Roosevelt. Although Roosevelt showed little sympathy for the plight of African Americans, he invited notable African Americans to participate in his administration and challenged state-imposed limitations on their civil rights during his third term in office.

There is a connection between the losses African Americans experienced during the post-Reconstruction period and the current conservative backlash. During the late 19th century, the southern states rolled back equalitarian laws for African Americans. Today’s congressional conservatives are rolling back the gains of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and accommodationist black conservatives are turning a blind eye to this historical fact.

Racial Analyses in the Times: Deferring to Elite Whites?

It appears that racial issues are finally getting a little more attention in some parts of the mainstream media. José called my attention to these two recent and interesting New York Times articles. The first is a short book review by Brent Staples, a journalist who notes that

As Randall Kennedy reminds us in his provocative and richly insightful new book, “The Persistence of the Color Line” . . . the Obama forces disseminated several messages intended to soothe the racially freighted fears of the white electorate. On one channel, they reassured voters that he was not an alien, but a normal American patriot. They also made clear that he was a “safe,” conciliatory black man who would never raise his voice in anger . . . .

Then he ads that candidate Obama himself sent out certain messages:

On yet another wavelength, the candidate proffered his bona fides as a black man to ­African-Americans who were initially wary of his unusual upbringing . . . .

It is a bit odd that Staples does not even note other, probably much more critical, books on race, racism, and the Obama campaigns–such as the one that Adia Harvey Wingfield and I did not long ago. Had he done so, Staples could perhaps have made even more sense out of the data on the white-racialized dimensions of both the Obama campaigns and Obama’s presidency.

There is also another interesting article in the Times by Desmond King, American government professor at Oxford University and Rogers Smith, a political science professor at Penn, that discusses the failure of both political parties to openly discuss racial matters seriously, such as the extreme unemployment rates for African Americans:

The economic crisis in the United States is also a racial crisis. White Americans are hurting, but nonwhite Americans are hurting even more. Yet leaders in both political parties — for different reasons — continue to act as though race were anachronistic and irrelevant in a country where an African-American is the president.

They are quite correct on this point, and their brief data on racial inequalities is highly germane to their general argument, but I kept waiting for them to discuss why there is such systemic racial inequality and who the key white decisionmakers mostly are in this regard. Not only are whites (or the dominant white racial frame) not called out as agents of discrimination, but even more seriously the elite white men whose racial and class frames and actions have mostly created the party and societal neglect (and much actual reality) of racism at issue are not specifically called out or critically discussed as elite white male agents (more than just “leaders”) shaping these structures.

As in the Staples review (and perhaps in Randall Kennedy’s book?), this white male elite remains unnoted and unmarked as such, once again. Is it still too dangerous now in this society to call them out and analyze their critical and continuing role in racial discrimination and their dominant white racial framing that shapes both our politics and our society more generally?

Black Democratic Candidate for Miss. Governor

An interesting post today at thedemocraticstrategist.org, a useful political analysis website that sometimes deals with the racial issues around President Obama’s campaign and presidency. They note that only the second African American since Reconstruction in the 1860s-1870s, the Hattiesburg mayor Johnny DuPree, has been nominated for governor by a major party (in this case the Democratic Party) in any of the former eleven Confederate secessionist states. He defeated a white lawyer by a 55-45 percent margin in a runoff for Mississippi governor, and the

The contest was notably without rancor, racial or otherwise. DuPree overcame a 2-1 spending disadvantage, and showed significant statewide strength.

Now, however, he will have to win against Republican

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who . . . will be a pretty heavy favorite, but you never quite know with off-year gubernatorial races. The last Democrat to win a Mississippi gubernatorial contest was Ronnie Musgrove in 1999.

The first black person nominated for governor since Reconstruction–and also the only one to eventually win the position–was Doug Wilder in Virginia.

What this story does not reveal is that the extreme racial polarization of the parties in most southern states means that DuPree’s Democratic Party and its voters are heavily African American, and the Republican Party and its voters are almost all white. As well as candidate Bryant, of course.

That is why the state with one of the two largest percentages of black residents at 37 percent—but are still only a large minority of all voters–cannot yet elect even one major statewide official who is black. Not one black person has been elected to a major state office since Reconstruction! Taxation without representation? Most whites seem very fearful of such racial change. Something like 85-90 percent of whites regularly vote Republican in what was once a state where whites voted in about those percentages for the Democratic Party, indeed not long ago.

But then the Democratic Party was the “white party” of the South, a designation that now applies to the Republican Party.